“The Best Gift of All” - Sermon for 12/23/18
For God so loved the world that He gave us Jesus... - John 3:16
Since Christmas is this Tuesday, I think we can all be completely honest with ourselves and each other... and confess... that we LOVE receiving gifts! And there's nothing in the world wrong with that! I mean, who doesn’t like presents? They’re awesome. Seriously, what’s not to love about getting cool things from people who care about you? I'll admit it... I love receiving gifts from people. It satisfies my core need for approval and acceptance. Because receiving gifts from people makes me feel as though they truly love, appreciate, and accept me, for me!
Of course, our idea of gift giving is WAY different than it used to be! Some of the “more mature” people tell me that back when they were children, Christmas gifts consisted of a some fruit and nuts and (if you were lucky) some kind of candy - and if you were really lucky, some kind of clothing. The extravagance we've grown accustomed to and expect wasn't a thing a few generations ago... I even had a family requesting help this Christmas, because the Salvation Army only offered a bicycle and a couple of age appropriate toys... no electronics! Kinda reveals the modern mind-set regarding gift giving, doesn't it?
Let me ask you... what was the best gift you’ve ever received as a child? Do you remember?
I remember several gifts that I loved... An Evel Knievel action figure on a motorcycle that you wound-up and pulled the handle back and it would zoom across the room - and pop a wheelie! And a Evel Knievel bicycle that had a faux engine and gas tank that made it look like a real motorcycle! You can tell I grew up in the 1970's, can’t you? I thought I was coolest nerd in the neighborhood!
I still have some of my childhood Christmas gifts: like the Merlin handheld electronic game (you could play “tic-tac-toe” and blackjack on)... or the electric train set I was given about 4-years old... the train is on display in my office.
But the best gift ever given to me as a kid - the ONE I was most excited to receive - was an Atari 2600 video game console... with PacMan and Donkey Kong! Kids today would be amazed at the graphics... or lack thereof!
To this day, I still love receiving gifts.
But, since we’re being honest today... I’ll also admit... that as an adult - particularly as a father - I’ve noticed something very interesting:
I get way more enjoyment out of GIVING gifts than receiving gifts!
I’ve received some pretty awesome gifts as an adult... many of the things I cherish... some of the things I use the most are gifts I’ve received as an adult.
But nothing compares to the memories I have of watching my children, when they were young... the look on their faces whenever one of our boys received a gift they really wanted... seeing the excitement and happiness on their faces... feeling the crazy, joyful exuberance, and hearing “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” brings that Atari 2600-level wonderful feeling back for me. And the feeling with grandchildren is even grander!
Jesus himself said, “It’s more blessed to give, than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
As I think about the reason - the REAL reason - we celebrate Christmas, I’m reminded of Matthew 7:11 (NLT), which says, “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” Of course, the truth is... no one can out give God!
John 3:16 tells us that God gave His only Son so that all those who believe would receive the gift of eternal life.
Romans 8:32 (NIV) stresses that truth, saying, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
2 Corinthians 8:9 (NLT) says, “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.”
But the question is why? Why did God give us this gift? Why did the King of heaven come down and make His dwelling among us?
1 Timothy 1:15 (NLT) tells us, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save...”
God’s Word tells us plainly, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We all stand separated from the holy perfection of God.
But that same, perfect God... filled with love, grace, and mercy, set a plan in place to bridge that great divide by giving us “the gift of God,” which is “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And He achieved this “by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him” (1 John 4:9 NLT).
As Christ-followers, we gather together, this day, as those who’ve received the very best gift of all... a gift that will keep on giving forever - a gift that will never get old, never break, never wear out, never be empty, and will never lose its value; the greatest gift the world has ever known... and all we have to do to receive it, is believe.
Jesus... the very same Jesus, born of a Virgin and wrapped in swaddling clothing, lying in a manger... is the same Lord who paid the price to purchase this gift for us... so He could offer it to us freely! That’s why John 3:16 is the most well-known verse in the Bible, because it’s the most powerful and simplest expression of God’s love for us.
And guess what? Do you know how God feels every time someone accepts His gift? God’s Word tells us in Luke 15:7 that there’s joy and rejoicing in heaven, every time one who is lost, is found. Every time someone acknowledges Christ... every time anyone becomes a believer... the heavens celebrate!
That’s the Gospel. It’s the Word of God... it’s what we believe... it’s what Christmas brings.
So today, as we ready ourselves to begin the Feast of Christmas; as we celebrate the birth of Christ... as we prepare Christmas Eve dinner or get ready to attend church... know that you aren’t the only one celebrating!
Be assured that our Father is in heaven celebrating the moment you and I became His children... and there continues to be great rejoicing in heaven as people come to know Him.
For God so loved the world that He gave us Jesus...